Educational consultant and expert admissions adviser Mark Montgomery speaks in front of some of Vassar College‘s less fashionable housing to point out that a school’s showcase buildings don’t necessarily represent the campus’ aesthetic as a whole.
Okay, so I’m here on the campus of Vassar College, and Vassar is known as one of the most beautiful campuses in America — it really is, it’s just gorgeous — and I often wonder, Vassar used to be a women’s college and some of my favorite campuses in America are the women’s colleges. I love Mount Holyoke, absolutely gorgeous, Bryn Mawr, impressively dramatic but just absolutely beautiful. Smith, fantastic. And I like Scripps, too; of the Claremont Colleges, that tends to be my favorite in terms of aesthetics. But aesthetics are interesting, and kind of fun when visiting a college campus.
I was recently at Colby College and I was with one of my students, I was taking him on a personalized tour, and it was kind of fun with him because we not only viewed all the beautiful spots on the campus, but we also went kind of behind the central area of the campus just to get a view, and I pointed out that, well every campus has its less-than-beautiful aspects to it. So I’m here — these are apartments behind me, this is Vassar College and these are apartments and they are, honestly, they look a little bit like glorified double-wide trailers. They’re painted as kind of — it’s a bit green and they do have these nice little porticos on them, there are little porches so that it keeps the snow off the doors. But every campus sometimes goes through growing pains and has to build housing in a hurry at a relatively low price, and so this is Vassar.
There are absolutely drop-dead gorgeous aspects to Vassar that really are incomparable in terms of their beauty: the library, the main building, the dormitories, the residential quad, gorgeous. But, it pays to take a drive around and look around at things beyond the central campus, to look behind those other buildings and see what else is a part of Vassar because we do find some ugliness here, and that is going to be part of your experience as well. So just make sure that when you do visit a college campus, that you don’t just stick with the packaged, dog-and-pony-show tour, that you take the time to walk around, get a view of the entire campus, drive around, see the surrounding community, because you will get a much more balanced view of what that campus is really like. Every campus has its ugly bits. This is probably one of the ugliest aspects of Vassar, but it definitely is part of it, and you need to understand what you’re buying, all the beauty, all the warts, to get an understanding of what it is you’re going to be experiencing for the next four years.